At five years old, my teacher told me that my creativity was endless. That my drawings were amazing, something she always let my parents know in my interviews. They were the first sparks that there was more to the story than another fleeting brown kid who’d probably never amount to anything tangible. Somebody invested in me and that was something which drove me to where I currently am. On a Saturday morning at 4:24 am stabbing my keyboard without a dash of alcohol on my lips for over a month. Creating this blog. This chat is to discuss my future career decisions. To raise the point that sometimes it is a more valuable lesson to let go of something you’ve clung to for re-assurances in such a deep way that you might refuse to ever let that go. To convince somebody out there struggling with a tough decision to lead with what is right and not by what you want to do.
When I was seven years old, our class was set an assignment to draw our dream house out of white chalk and black card. That stupid project stole my lunch because there was nothing stopping the intense effort being put into this little boys drawing. Looking at this drawing, another teacher commented, saying the work was something that exceeded pieces done by people years my senior, that one day I should consider becoming an Architect. That stupid lady. While remaining hugely grateful for the positive feedback what I would say is that she created this fire within me like Donald Trump who becomes so infatuated with his propaganda that he probably believes that he really is going to make America great again, that in Architecture I trust. I built such a strong belief that one day I would become an architect. It was the first ever memory I have of knowing what this creative job really meant.
Fast forward to high school where I learned that I hated physics with a passion. That I hated chemistry with a passion. So we could safely say that science is probably not the way to go. Then came the civil engineering phase, which was just as quickly phased out after I realized how bland and rational the job was. So then after a long arduous banter session throughout my years in high school, I finally graduated. Taking on a Bachelor of Architectural Studies. A three-year degree that covers all elements of the art as well as the specialization to become the very thing you wanted to become. Long story short it was all a series of events which slipped into place snugly.
What isn’t mentioned anywhere here is that I made the link that architecture was another way for snobby people to be even more materialistic. Whether that be families or businesses who weren’t happy to settle for cookie-cutter buildings and so that felt the urge to hire a guy, who never uses HB pencils, to sketch a few iterations down on a Moleskine notepad, stress over a CAD program for three weeks just to sell an idea that at the end of the day adds no value to a person’s qualities or contributes anything to somebody who struggles to put bread on the table. that at the end of the day the Architect is more concerned about font styles and digital rendering, than practicality and socialism.
I want to raise how hard it is to let go of things that seem so right. Making really tough decisions to move past career choices and allow yourself more room to grow and make mistakes elsewhere. To recognise the motives of different professions, weigh them up against other pathways and decide what you really want to do.
A bit of history, some readers may know that when I was eight months old I was taken away from my parents and put into the care of two amazing parents who would later adopt me as whangai, which is a Maori form of adoption that allows me to keep both parents. Being in child youth and family till the age of 12 gave me experience within a failed children’s ministry and it gave me a voice when it mattered the most. Two years ago I was given the opportunity to be a part of a new ministry for children. One that would be created and designed by a ministry with the advice of the voice of those who lived and were living in the system. Basically it was time for me to grow up and realise that I was a part of something bigger than anything I would ever accomplish in my entire career as being an architect. That I was confident no building, no convention centre, no reserve park for birds that I may design if I became a successful career would ever match the incredible empowerment that guaranteeing thousands of kids, who had also been taken away from their families, have a voice and that this country recognises the mistakes they have made.
“Ka Pu Te Ruha, Ka Hao Te Rangatahi: As the old net is cast aside, the new net goes fishing.”
This was the whakatauki, Maori proverb, that I used when opening the ceremonies of the new Ministry, Oranga Tamariki. It reflects on the shortcomings of a system that didn’t work but remembers the important structural networks within the system who put their heart and soul into making the previous system a safer place for kids. But it also reflects on the future network that would be rolled out in light of an old system. Perhaps this proverb is somehow relatable to my own career pathway. Policy was such a foreign concept of mine. Going from a world of creativity where the only restriction is how much lead is in a pencil, it was a different perspective to enter the world of governmental policy and the creation of legislation from a paper pushing position. In the hopes that I might be able to find problems within the mechanics of the system and work from the inside out. That at every corner, using my experience in the care system I would have a voice that sparks resistance from adults in positions of power so that they might learn that not every decision ought to be financially based, not every decision has to be unilateral and that the values of a child are kept at the cornerstone of every choice. Their voices matter most because they represent a sustainable future. And that is something that I can honestly stand for.
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